WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Oct. 18, a Pennsylvania judge denied a Republican request to alter the rules regulating the use of drop boxes throughout Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. On Sept. 1, just 20 days before absentee ballots were sent out in some Pennsylvania counties, America First Legal — a conservative group founded by Mark Meadows and Stephen Miller — filed a lawsuit on behalf of voters alleging that the current lack of guidance regarding drop boxes violates the Pennsylvania Election Code, which the plaintiffs argue requires that “mailed and absentee ballots must be returned either by mail or in person by the person to whom the ballot belongs.” The conservative group requested that the Lehigh County Board of Elections provide “in-person monitoring,” place all drop boxes inside buildings and limit the hours of a 24/7 drop box at the Lehigh County Government Center. Today, a judge rejected Republicans’ requested relief in a decision that is a victory for voters as drop boxes will stay open and accessible in Lehigh County.
In the opinion denying the Republicans’ request, the judge held that “the integrity of mail-in voting via drop boxes in Lehigh County remains safe and secure.” The judge noted that the “[p]etitioners have not met their burden of proof to establish all elements required for the issuance of a” preliminary injunction restricting drop boxes nor did they “cite to any provision in the Election Code mandating [the requested] actions be taken.” Additionally, the judge wrote, “[i]n-person monitoring as advanced by Petitioners is more likely than not to have the unintended result of in-person intervention at the drop box sites and may unduly interfere with voters lawfully returning their ballots to the drop box.” Ultimately, today’s decision is a relief for voters in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania who will continue to have access to secure drop boxes to cast their mail-in ballots.
This lawsuit is one in a series of Republican-sponsored attempts to limit mail-in voting in the commonwealth before the 2022 midterm elections: America First Legal filed a similar lawsuit in Chester County to limit drop boxes; the Republican National Committee unsuccessfully challenged mail-in ballot cure procedures (the process by which a voter may be notified of a technical mistake with their mail-in ballot and attempt to rectify that mistake) and Republicans filed a lawsuit to prevent the counting of undated and incorrectly dated mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania. Despite Republican attacks on the mail-in voting process, Lehigh County is scheduled to deploy five drop boxes on Oct. 24 and Pennsylvanians will continue to vote by mail.